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Once again, another month had record warmth. March 2024 was the warmest March on Earth. And it's the 10th month in a row that set global heat records  (since June 2023). Yikes!

Ocean warmth has had 11 record-setting months in a row. Meanwhile, scientists are divided over whether climate change (and warmth) is accelerating or all this record warmth month after month is in line with climate change predictions.

The big question: What will summer heat be like?

From The Weather Channel: Earth's Warmest March Is 10th Straight Record Month, Just-Released Data Shows

March was E​arth's warmest on record, according to preliminary data, the latest month in a stretch of heat records since the planet's hottest year in 2023. ...continue reading "Earth Just Had Its Warmest March"

Chronic wasting disease is slowly spreading through the US - county by county, state by state. In July 2022 it had been detected in deer, moose, or elk in 30 states, and by December 2023 in 32 states.

In December 2023, it was detected in Kentucky in a white-tailed buck that a hunter killed. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has now been found in deer in 6 of the 7 states bordering Kentucky. [CDC map]

Chronic wasting disease is an always fatal neurologic disease that can occur in cervids (deer, elk, moose, reindeer). It is a prion disease similar to "mad cow disease" (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob's disease in humans. There is no vaccine, treatment, or cure for the disease.

So far there is no evidence that CWD has crossed over to humans. But extra caution should be taken. Don't eat meat from infected deer or moose. Hunters should follow state precautions in field dressing and butchering, and have the meat tested for CWD. [CDC site for CWD]

How is it spread? Scientists believe CWD prions spread between animals through body fluids (e.g., feces, saliva, blood, or urine), either through direct contact or indirectly through environmental contamination of soil, food or water. Once introduced into an area or farm, the CWD prion (protein) is contagious within deer and elk populations and spreads.

Once CWD gets into the soil, it stays there for years, and so animals can contract it even after infected deer and elk have died. Recent research found that plants uptake the prions where it remains infectious. Yikes!

How do you get rid of it? Unfortunately, high heat, disinfectants, and radiation don't kill the CWD prions. Dr.Zabel at the Colorado State Univ. Prion Research Center suggested a few years ago that controlled burns (fires) of infected fields or areas could eliminate the prions left behind by infected animals (from animal mucus/saliva, urine, and feces, and decaying carcasses) on plants and soil.

A concerning study. From Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) : Plants can take up CWD-causing prions from soil in the lab. What happens if they are eaten? ...continue reading "Chronic Wasting Disease Now Detected In 32 States"

It's March 1, which means meteorological spring is here. Cold winter is over, yet it didn't feel that cold for most. In fact, the last year has been unprecedented and shocking with all the warm records that were set.

This past winter was the warmest on record for the lower 48 in the United States - when looking at records going back to 1880. January was the eighth straight month Earth set a new warm record - a streak that started in June 2023.

Makes you wonder what's ahead for us this year. Will we keep breaking records for warmth? Probably yes.

From Weather Underground: It Was America's Warmest Winter On Record, Preliminary Data Shows

Winter was the warmest on record in the contiguous U.S. since the late 19th century, and was particularly warm from parts of the upper Midwest into the Northeast.

M​eteorologists group seasons into tidy three-month buckets that more closely follow average temperatures, rather than astronomical seasons that follow the changing sun angle. Meteorological winter follows the typically coldest months of the year from December through February.

E​xcept for some, it didn't feel all that cold this winter. 

It truly is a warming world. Scientists normally label hurricanes according to their strength from Category 1 to Category 5 (wind speeds 158 mph or greater). Some climate scientists are now proposing adding a Category 6 due to the increased strength of recent hurricanes.

The new Category 6 would be storms with wind speeds greater than 192 mph. When the researchers examined wind speeds from past storms, they found 5 storms that would have been reclassified as Category 6. And they all occurred in the past decade.

The researchers expect that as the world warms, the number of Category 6 storms will increase. Stronger storms = more destruction. Yikes!

By the way, hurricanes, tropical storms, and typhoons are essentially the same kind of storm. They are just called different names in different parts of the world.

From Science Daily: In a warming world, climate scientists consider category 6 hurricanes

For more than 50 years, the National Hurricane Center has used the Saffir-Simpson Windscale to communicate the risk of property damage; it labels a hurricane on a scale from Category 1 (wind speeds between 74 -- 95 mph) to Category 5 (wind speeds of 158 mph or greater). ...continue reading "Hurricanes Are Getting Stronger"

There is tremendous concern about microplastics and what effects they have on humans when ingested (yes, they are found in our bodies). Microplastics are the tiny plastic particles that occur as plastic breaks down over time. They have been found in foods that we eat, water that we drink, and basically everywhere.

A new study confirms that bottled water is a huge source of microplastics in our diet. The researchers counted the microplastics in 3 brands of bottled water (without revealing the brands) and found that a liter contained an average of 240,000 plastic fragments. This is 10 to 100 times more than previous estimates, which had been based on larger plastic particle sizes.

Microplastics are 1 µm to 5 mm in length, while nanoplastic particles are even smaller plastic pieces - less than 1 µm or micrometer. (In contrast: human hair is generally about 70 micrometers thick). Nanoparticles are thought to be more toxic because they can more easily get into the body (into the lungs, blood, and organs) due to their small size.

Currently it is unknown what or if there are any effects from all these plastic particles in our bodies, but scientists are worried.

From Science Daily: Bottled water can contain hundreds of thousands of previously uncounted tiny plastic bits

In recent years, there has been rising concern that tiny particles known as microplastics are showing up basically everywhere on Earth, from polar ice to soil, drinking water and food. Formed when plastics break down into progressively smaller bits, these particles are being consumed by humans and other creatures, with unknown potential health and ecosystem effects. One big focus of research: bottled water, which has been shown to contain tens of thousands of identifiable fragments in each container. ...continue reading "Large Numbers of Plastic Particles Are In Bottled Water"

One topic of concern is chronic wasting disease and its slow spread throughout the US and Canada. Now found in 30 states! Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease that has no cure and is always fatal. It is similar to mad cow disease, but this fatal neurological disease occurs in cervids, such as deer, elk, and moose.

Recently, The Atlantic had an article about the spread of chronic wasting disease, and how it could ultimately result in the extinction of deer in the US. Some estimates already have the deer population down several million (for several reasons, not just CWD). Or perhaps deer populations will get decimated, with only some deer living and reproducing until the age of 2, and then dying.

This is because the disease can be transmitted before symptoms appear. It takes a while (more than a year) for a deer to show symptoms and die, and it can be passed to newborn fawns from the mother deer when she uses her tongue to groom the newborn.

Incredibly, the disease particles are shed into the environment (e.g., from deer feces) and stay in the soil for at least a decade. It can even be taken up by plants (thus it's in the leaves that deer eat) from the soil.

And yes, if you're wondering, scientists are very concerned that some day this incurable prion disease can make the jump to humans. So far it hasn't, but this is one reason why hunters are told to bring in deer heads for testing (and definitely to not eat deer meat until results come back negative).  Unfortunately, many people resist believing that there is a problem, and testing efforts vary from state to state.

Excerpts from The Atlantic: An Incurable Disease Is Coming for Deer

Jorge is leading a multiyear study at the University of Georgia on chronic wasting disease, an always-fatal neurological illness. Ubiquitous deer may be, but in CWD, they face a serious threat. From its first appearance in Colorado in the late 1960s, CWD has crawled steadily across the country. It is now found in more than 30 states and multiple Canadian provinces. ...continue reading "Deer Population Could Decline From Chronic Wasting Disease"

It became official this month - the year 2023 was the warmest year on record! The global average temperature was significantly warmer than any other year.

Uh-oh. This is climate change, and the temperature increase is fueled by the burning of fossil fuels (e.g., coal, oil, gas) - which releases large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the air.

Scientists think that 2023 is probably the hottest year going back 125,000 years. Will 2024 be another record-breaking year? The baseline is being set higher and higher, yet we keep breaking the new baselines. Important: "The 10 warmest years since 1850 have all occurred in the past decade."

Excerpts from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) - [do go to the site and see the graphics]: 2023 was the world’s warmest year on record, by far

It’s official: 2023 was the planet’s warmest year on record, according to an analysis by scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

Along with the historic heat, Antarctic sea ice coverage dropped to a record low in 2023. ...continue reading "Will 2024 Be Warmer Than 2023?"